There's nothing like volunteering with people you know -- it helps take the edge off the less-fun aspects of whatever job it is you're doing, and it brings you together as a group. And instilling your children with a love of helping can be done by volunteering as a family. A great place to start is a nursing home, because it's low-key and your young ones may feel as if the elderly people are like grandparents -- a comforting concept.
Plan to go on a regular basis. Find a weekly time when your whole family can gather together and go volunteer as a unit -- then make it a regular thing. Don't commit to a nursing home unless you've tried it out and know it will be a good place to come back to regularly; but when you do choose somewhere, give them a consistent time during the week (or month) that you'll be back. That way, your kids will learn that volunteering is a serious commitment that cannot just be blown off.
Volunteer to do the grunt work, not just the fun stuff. Often, people will volunteer at nursing home and put their time towards entertaining the residents, but there is a lot of grunt work that desperately needs to be done. For at least part of the time you're there, or perhaps for a session or two during the month, offer to clean toilets, chop up food, sweep the floors, and help residents get clean. It's tough work, but gratifying.
Bring homemade goodies each week, something new for the residents to enjoy. They will quickly look forward to your arrival, and even those who were reluctant to warm up to you will soon be sharing their stories and wisdom and humor. Let your kids help bake and then give them the treats to share around; you will get some of the credit simply by being the parent, so allow them to have that moment of glory.
If you want to entertain the residents, show off a special skill of yours. Instruments quickly come to mind; if you play something easily transportable, bring it along. The same goes for your kids! Some children don't love to be put on display, but some adore the spotlight, so figure out how your kids feel about performing for others and then let them show off accordingly. Other fun skills include juggling, caricature drawing, singing, magic performing, and dancing.
You may be allowed to take your pet with you. Some nursing home residents love animals, but never get to see their own beloved pets, and having yours come for a visit will brighten their entire week.
If volunteering just isn't your thing, you could always go garage saling! We can help out with that -- visit our main page at GarageSaleCow.com to find free listings of sales in your area.